Becoming a World Power
Describe and analyze the major changes – both positive and negative – in the role the United States played in world affairs after the Civil War, and explain the causes and consequences of this changing role.


Chapter 20: "The United States Looks Overseas"

Chapter 21: "World War I"


Your semester exam will be in two parts:
  • Multiple Choice test (30-40 questions) in class -- Click for the 6.2 Study Guide.pdf
  • Essay, developed and written prior to exam day (except 4th hour) -- Click for a description of the 6.2 Exam Essay.pages

6.2.1 Growth of U.S. Global Power

Locate on a map the territories (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Hawaii, Panama Canal Zone) acquired by the United States during its emergence as an imperial power between 1890 and 1914, and analyze the role the Spanish American War, the Philippine Revolution, the Panama Canal, the Open Door Policy, and the Roosevelt Corollary played in expanding America’s global influence and redefining its foreign policy.
Lesson 1: The Expanding Nation to 1898
Lesson 2: “Yellow Journalism” and the Spanish-American War
Lesson 3: Growth of the United States as a Global Power, 1898-1914

6.2.2 WWI

Explain the causes of World War I, the reasons for American neutrality and eventual entry into the war, and America’s role in shaping the course of the war.

6.2.3 Domestic Impact of WWI

Analyze the domestic impact of WWI on the growth of the government (e.g., War Industries Board), the expansion of the economy, the restrictions on civil liberties (e.g., Sedition Act, Red Scare, Palmer Raids), and the expansion of women’s suffrage.

6.2.4 Wilson and His Opponents

Explain how Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” differed from proposals by others, including French and British leaders and domestic opponents, in the debate over the Versailles Treaty, United States participation in the League of Nations, the redrawing of European political boundaries, and the resulting geopolitical tensions that continued to affect Europe.


Lesson 1: The Expanding Nation to 1898

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.1; C4.1.1

Key Concepts: annexation, imperialism, internationalism, isolationism, nationalism
Abstract: In this lesson students review the major milestones in the evolution of American foreign policy from George Washington’s Farewell Address to the conflict within the United States over the attempt to annex Hawaii.

Begin by reviewing how the United States expanded geographically since its birth as a nation. Watch this video to consider this. After viewing the video to 1900, engage in a quick write/discussion describing how the United States expanded geographically from thirteen colonies to 1898. This is all review of your 8th grade social studies course.

Our first president – George Washington – made some early statements about America’s foreign policy in his Farewell Address. Open/download “Excerpts from George Washington’s Farewell Address”. “Think Aloud” as someone reads the excerpt aloud to the class. As you listen, highlight/underline key passages of the text. Then work with a partner to answer the following questions and make notes in the margins:
  • What were Washington’s main points regarding foreign policy?
  • What do you think motivated Washington to reach his conclusions?
  • Are any of his suggestions still applicable? If not, why not? Explain. If so, which ones? Explain.

Take 5-8 minutes to discuss your responses with your partners and then the class will engage in a general discussion about the above questions. To what extent does the class agree? To what extent does it differ?

Next, lets establish some working definitions of imperialism, isolationism, nationalism, and internationalism. Record these ideas in their notes. Imperialism can be defined as the act or process of a nation extending its control over areas beyond its borders. Isolationism is a policy or doctrine by which one country separates itself from the affairs of other nations. In an effort to remain at peace, the country avoids both foreign entanglements and responsibilities. Countries usually accomplished this by avoiding alliances, foreign economic commitments, and international agreements. The United States remained politically isolated throughout the 19th Century. Historians argue that this was possible because the United States was geographically separated from Europe. Nationalism can be defined as loyalty and devotion to a nation. Nation-states are political entities whose boundaries do not always align with ethnic, linguistic, religious, and territorial forms of identity. Be reminded that during this period in American and world history, nation-states were expanding, contracting, and being redefined. This made the process of claiming nationhood and celebrating nationalism all the more important. With respect to policy, nationalism is the doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation-state as separate and distinct from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations. Nationalism has been one of the most important forces shaping international politics. Finally, internationalism is a broad term but for the purposes of this lesson it refers to the belief by some influential Americans in the late 19th century that the United States needed to move beyond its continental boundaries to both protect itself and help enlighten other people who would otherwise fall under the control of predatory European powers.

Divide into groups of five each and acquire copies of the chart “Foreign Policy Decisions” and the “Websites for Foreign Policy Decisions”, both of which should be one one sheet (front-to-back). Each group member should select a separate topic on the chart to investigate. Use their textbooks and the identified websites to research their topic and complete the “Description” column of the chart. Note: This part of the lesson may be assigned for homework.

After the groups have completed their research, have each group member share the results of their investigation within your small group. Record information in the appropriate section of the chart. Refer to the “Foreign Policy Views” slide (at right), or below.
  • Exclusively Expansionistic – a practice or policy that focuses solely on increasing economic or territorial size or scope of the country
  • Growing Sense of US Potential – increasing belief that the US was capable of doing something that it had not yet accomplished
  • Clear Sense of National Limitations – recognizing that economic and political realities might restrain or inhibit the achievement of potential goals
  • Reckless/Unrealistic Sense of Foreign Policy – acting despite evidence to the contrary
  • Reassessing Meaning of America’s Core Values – Revising or redefining the meaning of ideals such as liberty and equality

Discuss the following questions as a large group:
  • Which of the five topics demonstrates an exclusively expansionistic policy?
  • Which of the five topics demonstrates a growing sense of America’s potential on the international stage? Explain.
  • Which of the five topics demonstrates a clear sense of the limitations to which the nation was subject at that particular moment in its history? Explain.
  • Which of the five demonstrates a reckless or unrealistic sense of foreign policy? Explain.
  • Which of the five topics demonstrates America reassessing the meaning of its core values? How so?

See this web page for details on the Annexation of Hawaii.

Have students use the right hand column of the chart to record information from the class discussion.

Conclude by writing in your 6.2 Notes a response to the following question: Did American expansion during the 19th Century contradict the core values of the United States? If so, explain how? If not, explain why you think it did not.

Lesson 2: “Yellow Journalism” and the Spanish-American War

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.1; C3.5.1; C3.5.5; C3.5.7; C3.5.9; C4.1.1; C4.1.2
Key Concepts: imperialism, nationalism, yellow journalism
Abstract: As the 19th century came to a close the American people were engaged in a dispute over the United States’ role on the international stage. The public discussion was both amplified and distorted by the most powerful newspapers of the time. These publications employed increasingly sensationalistic methods which have come to be known as “yellow journalism” after the period’s popular cartoon character, “the yellow kid”.

ACT Reading Prep - "Yellow Journalism".
Paul Revere's Boston Massacre
Sensational Article 1
Sensational Article 2
Examining the Source Handout

Journalistic, literary or artistic effort to persuade or influence public opinion did not begin in the 19th century. There is abundant evidence of its use during the American Revolution and the early history of the United States. It was also used during Antiquity. Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on both the Gallic and Roman Civil Wars are early examples of self-promotion. Remind students of the term “Boston Massacre” and the engraving by Paul Revere. Consider:
  • From whose perspective is this event described? How do you know?
  • What in the image that makes you believe it is from this perspective?
  • What in the words used makes you believe it is from this perspective?
  • How would the drawing differ if it was trying to demonstrate another side to the story? What would be different? What suggestions would you make to change the image?
  • How might this image have influenced public opinion about the British?

We are surrounded by propaganda everyday from advertisements to news shows. Propaganda has propelled our country to war in the past. This was so in the Spanish-American War. Engage in a class discussion of the assigned reading using the following questions:
  • What benefits did American society gain from the marketing techniques used by Hearst and Pulitzer? Explain.
  • What negative consequences derived from the techniques used by Hearst and Pulitzer? Explain.

Find text of the First Amendment. The First Amendment clearly states that the Press in the United States must be a “free” one. Briefly discuss the meaning of “free”. Then arrange into a "fishbowl discussion" with six seats in the center of the room and the remainder of the seats around the perimeter of the inner circle. Have six students engage in an in-depth discussion using the questions (no one else talks!):
  • The First Amendment clearly states that the Press in the United States must be a “free” one. What exactly is the Press “free from” or “free” of?
  • Does the First Amendment give editors and owners the right to conduct business the way that Hearst and Pulitzer did on the eve of the Spanish-American War?
  • In what ways did the media influence the public agenda and ultimately public policy at the end of the 19th Century?
  • In what ways do the media influence the public agenda and ultimately public policy today?
  • If the media can influence public agenda and ultimately public policy, what responsibilities do the media have to the public? Who polices them?
  • What responsibility do citizens have as consumers of the press?

During the discussion, record some of the more insightful student answers or ideas on the board and see if the class can amend or elaborate upon these responses. Encourage students on the outside of the fishbowl to join in the discussion by tapping and replacing students from the inner group once they have made at least three statements. Debrief the discussion by informing the class that the leading newspapers in the United States in 1898 played a major role in convincing the American public that war with the Spanish Empire was an ethical, political, and an economic necessity.

After you read about the causes and consequences of the Spanish-American War in your textbooks, choose one of the two articles provided and read it. Consider the tone and overall expression that the article has. What is the message that the article is sending?

Share the results of their investigations. Respond in their 6.2 Notes to the following question: How did the role of a free press influence the America’s growth of global power?

Lesson 3: Growth of the United States as a Global Power, 1898-1914

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.1; C4.1.1; C4.1.3
Key Concepts: annexation, imperialism, internationalism, nationalism, national interest
Abstract: As the 20th century began the United States under President William McKinley had acquired an overseas empire and adopted an approach to China known as the “Open Door Policy”. McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and was succeeded by his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the more forceful and energetic men to hold the office. Roosevelt’s presidential successors were William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom adopted varying measures to consolidate and promote America’s position as an international power.

Lesson 3 Resources/Handouts
Causes and Consequences of the Spanish-American War
World - Political Map
Open Door Policy Reading Activity
Presidential Approaches to Foreign Policy
The Change in Manifest Destiny

How and why did America’s role on the international stage change? This is the focus of the next few lessons in this unit. Lets review the causes of the Spanish-American War using the document “The Spanish American War” either from the resources above or the presentation at right. Try to brainstorm about some of the potential consequences of an America victory in the Spanish-American War. Use the handout to verify responses. The Platt Amendment is a result of the Spanish-American War. The amendment defines the relationship between the United States and Cuba, allowing the US influence over Cuban affairs and land claims. Let's also consider the following questions:
  • What consequence most surprises you? Why?
  • What consequence is a typical consequence of victory in a conflict? Why?
  • If the United States’ involvement in the Spanish-American War was allegedly to promote Cuban independence, why was it important to the US to have such an influence in Cuba?

Acquire a “World-Political Map” from the resources above and print or get a hard copy and work with a partner to locate Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines on the map. As a pair, choose one of those regions and investigate US involvement in that region at the turn of the century and annotate brief description of it on the back of the map. Students should use their textbook and any other web resource as a reference.

Pulling it together, let's use a class wall map of the world to explore US involvement in the places listed above, with each pair sharing the results of their research. As a pair shares, the remainder of the class should take notes on the back of their maps or on your 6.2 notes. After all locations are described, let's discuss how America’s acquisition or involvement in these locations positioned the United States to be recognized as both a world and imperial power.

With the Spanish-American War, the United States became increasingly visible in world affairs, and the foreign policy positions of subsequent presidents reflected this shift. Read about the “Open Door Policy” using the handout “Open Door Policy,” located in resources above. Take notes in the left-hand column and record your thoughts about the reading in the right-hand column. This could be assigned as homework. After the reading, we'll discuss the Open Door Policy and whether it was another example of imperialistic behavior or an attempt to promote “economic freedom”. Support their position with reasoning.

Acquire a copy of “Presidential Approaches to Foreign Policy” located in the resources above. Take notes during a brief lecture about the different foreign policy approaches of Presidents T. Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson and put your notes in the corresponding cell in the table on the handout. For additional information, the following websites may be helpful background for teachers:

Acquire a copy of “The Change in Manifest Destiny,” from the resources above. We will review the meaning of Manifest Destiny during the 19th Century. Explain that in 1899 Rudyard Kipling wrote “The White Man’s Burden.” The poem explained that the responsibility of colonizers was to help primitive people and “fill full the mouth of famine and bid the sickness cease.” Divide students into small groups and read the poem together (linked above). Engage in a small group discussion that considers how the meaning of Manifest Destiny changed in light of US imperialism and the foreign policies explained earlier in the lesson. Discuss how this “burden” or “responsibility” may have changed the meaning of Manifest Destiny for Americans. After a few minutes, have the groups share their conclusions with the rest of the class. Through the discussion, guide students in completing the chart under the New Manifest Destiny column.

Have students engage in a conversation line in which they discuss America’s changing role on the international stage. To do this, write the following question on the board or overhead transparency:
“How and why did America’s role on the international stage change?”

Divide students into two equal lines facing each other. Have one side talk for two or three minutes (be specific with a timer) about America’s changing role. Then have the other side talk, giving them the same time limit. Note that the students not speaking should conduct themselves as good listeners and not interject at all. Then, slide the students in one line down three students (students at the end of the line will move to the other line) so that students now have a new partner. Repeat the process allowing each side of the line to address the issue again. Finally, have students slide down the line again and repeat the discussion. It is preferable that students have three attempts at answering the question. Their answers will become more thoughtful and detailed each time. Debrief the exercise by asking students how the content of their conversations changed.

Conclude the lesson by writing in your 6.2 Notes in response to the following question: Is it possible for a nation to genuinely pursue and promote freedom at home and restrict it abroad? Explain.

Lesson 4:Causes of World War I and U.S. Involvement

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.2; C4.1.2; C4.1.4;
Key Concepts: alliances, imperialism, isolationism, militarism, nationalism, neutrality
Abstract: In August of 1914 the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. This event was the spark that ignited a conflagration which lasted for four years, involved most of the nations of the world, and at its conclusion World War I (or the Great War as it was known at the time) was the most costly war humanity had experienced to date. Historians have different ideas about what the most crucial factor was in terms of convincing President Woodrow Wilson, the United States Congress, and most American citizens that war with Germany and its’ allies had become necessary by April 2, 1917. Wilson ran for reelection as the “peace” candidate in 1916, but by the spring of 1917 reversed his position and asked Congress for a declaration of war. In this lesson, students examine the causes of World War I in general and consider some of the basic theories about what the most important factor was in propelling America to war.

Lesson 4 Resources/Handouts
Video: World War I
6.2 Origins of World War I.pages

Monday, 1/10
Begin with short introductory video on the the Great War, World War I. Consider and discuss, "What were the underlying factors that led to war in Europe?"

Students will then read read "The Road to War" Chapter 21, Section 1 of the textbook (pgs. 706-711) and complete the 6.2 Origins of World War I.pages note-taking handout.

Lesson 5: Domestic Impact of World War I

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.3; C3.4.4
Key Concepts: civil liberties, isolationism, neutrality
Abstract: One of Woodrow Wilson’s chief fears about having the United States join in hostilities during World War I was the impact it would have on the American people and their way of life. The President felt that under any circumstances war was a savage and dangerous business. It always had negative consequences for those engaged in it. When Congress declared war, America was ill prepared for the conflict. This meant that in order to meet the extraordinary demands imposed by shifting from a peace time to a war time economy and drastically expanding the armed forces, the government would have to insure massive coordination and guarantee the efficient use of natural resources.

Have students read the sections in their textbooks about the domestic impact of World War I in the United States before coming to class. Begin the lesson by explaining to students that some of the most important acts and organizations created by the government were the War Industries Board, the National War Labor Board, the Espionage and Sedition Acts, and the Committee on Public Information. All of these measures were designed to promote security in general and the war effort in particular.

Divide the class into eight groups. Assign one group the task of arguing for the creation of and powers bestowed upon the War Industries Board. Another group is assigned to argue against the Board as unethical or a violation of basic American rights. The next six groups should similarly argue for or against the National War Labor Board, the Espionage and Sedition Acts, and the Committee on Public Information. In addition to their textbooks, provide students with the list of websites from “Domestic Impact of World War I,” located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4).

After the groups have completed the research and formulated their positions, distribute copies of copies of the “Domestic Impact of World War I Chart” located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). Have students engage in a fishbowl discussion of each topic. In a fishbowl, students that researched the topic (both for and against) sit in the center of the room while the rest of the students sit in seats around the perimeter of the inner circle. Be sure to write the topic the students are discussing on the board for reference. After students in the outer circle take notes during the discussion, provide them with an opportunity at the end to ask questions of the student experts. Teacher Note: The topic of the National War Labor Board is the least complex of the topics.

Debrief the fishbowls with the whole class using the following questions:
  • Which of the four actions, if any, were reasonable?
  • How did the government use propaganda to influence public opinion during the war? How can we distinguish this from the yellow journalism that led to the Spanish-American War?
  • Do the exigencies of the war justify the compromise of core democratic values? How so?
  • Poll the students on their individual opinions. Is there consensus? Follow up with a brief discussion exploring and amending the main points raised during the fishbowl discussions.

Next inform students that the war also had an impact on society in terms of how people perceived one another and interacted. The flames of fear and anger, fanned by the savagery of the conflict, caused some Americans to seek a scapegoat. For example, hate crimes against people of German descent sharply escalated during the war. In 1919, the year after the war ended, the United States experienced the so-called “Red Scare”. This was an intense reaction against some real, but mostly imagined, Communists in the United States who were supposedly conspiring to overthrow the government. The Communist seizure of power in Russia in November of 1918 and other Communist uprisings in Europe caused some Americans to panic at the prospect of a “Red” takeover in the United States. The Attorney-General at the time, A. Mitchell Palmer, had law enforcement officials round up and detain without trial hundreds of suspects, many of whom were later illegally deported.

After students have digested these unpleasant realities, inform them that the war’s impact was not entirely negative. Some historians have argued that the war helped speed up the passage of the 19th Amendment, which states that the right to vote shall not be denied or restricted by the United States or any state on the basis of sex. American women had greatly assisted the war effort and in the process had gained greater confidence and respect from their fellow citizens. This helped convince many that women were in fact capable and deserving of the vote.

Conclude the lesson by having students write in their Freedom Tracking Notebooks in response to the following question: “Are the need for freedom and the need for national security unavoidably in conflict?” Have students explain their reactions.

Lesson 6: Ending the War, 14 Points and Opponents

Content Expectations: USHG 6.2.4; C4.1.1
Key Concepts: civil liberties, isolationism, national interest, neutrality
Abstract: In January of 1918 President Wilson appeared before a joint session of Congress and gave a speech which outlined his ideas about the kind of settlement that was needed in order for humanity to promote democracy and avoid any future conflicts of the sort then being waged. He presented his speech without consulting Republican leaders in the Congress or American allies in Europe. According to some historians, this was to prove a most unwise political course of action.

Prior to the lesson have students read about Wilson’s 14 Points in their textbooks. Begin the lesson by describing how President Wilson traveled to Europe to personally lead the American delegation, which along with representatives of the so-called Great Powers, were preparing to reach diplomatic settlements which would formally end the war. Introduce students to the concept of “national interest.” It can be defined as the interest of a state, usually as defined by its government. Display the document “National Interests” located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4) to help students develop a clear understanding of the term.

Next, distribute the handout “The 14 Points in My Own Words” located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). Have students discuss each point with a partner and then record what each means in their own words on the handout.

Divide the class into five groups and assign each group to one of the following:
  • Republicans in Congress
  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany

Provide each group with the appropriate handout for their country from the “Perspectives” handouts located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). Also provide each group with a list of “Wilson’s Fourteen Points” located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). After reading their assigned perspective, have students cut apart the list of Fourteen Points and place each point in order of importance from their assigned perspective. Teacher note: It might be easier to cut apart the points and place them in an envelope for each group. Allow 8 minutes.

Next, have each group give a brief presentation on their perspective of the Fourteen Points based on their country’s “national interest”. As students representing the European powers present, they should explain why the Fourteen Points don’t suit their nation’s needs. Instruct students to take notes on each country’s national interests and its criticisms of the Fourteen Points during the presentations using the “Views on Peace” chart located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). Note that students should have the column “Description of Position” filled out at the end of this portion of the lesson.

After each group has presented, engage students in a class discussion which explores the vexing issue of “perspective”. We all collide in the course of our lives with people or groups who disagree with our opinions. Not infrequently we conclude that those who disagree with our more cherished ideas are insane, stupid, and evil or are simply being obstinate. The discussion should be aimed at students coming to grips with the fact that there were intelligent, compassionate, and honorable diplomats from each of the Great Powers who disagreed with Wilson’s idealistic program. The class must also understand that having noble ideas and feelings are not enough. One must find a way to implement them.

After students have read about the Treaty of Versailles and the peace settlement in their text, review some of the significant provisions of the treat using “The Treaty of Versailles,” handout located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4). After exploring some of the “Results of the Treaty of Versailles” also located in the Supplemental Materials (Unit 4) with the class, use the following questions for a class discussion:
  • How did the responses to President Wilson’s Fourteen Points illustrate tensions between interventionism and isolationism?
  • How might the peace treaty established after World War I result in geopolitical tensions in Europe?

Conclude the lesson by having students write in their Freedom Tracking Notebook in response to the following:

How have foundational values and principles shaped foreign policy positions such as isolationism, imperialism, and interventionism?